the perception of time

Rubus occidentalis in flower on June 12, 2020 ©Sonja Hakala

The dog and I stroll in the wetlands down by the river almost every day. Once we get to the bottom of the steps that bring us there, she disappears into the underbrush to do her doggie thing while I take pictures or use my clippers to remind the Japanese knotweed who’s boss.

(So far, it’s a draw.)

We make good companion walkers, the dog and I, each content to do what she likes with friendly-but-not-overbearing company nearby.

The pictures I take remind me how fast life changes around here. When you’re a plant in New England and half of your year is too cold for growing, you’ve got to be in a hurry.

The winners in the plant competition on the river bank are the wild black raspberries. They are admirable, tough plants, taking advantage of the sunny places where soil is sparse or debris left behind by periodic flooding covers the earth. In other words, it pays to be slender and diligent and covered with thorns so nothing and no one messes with you.

Rubus occidentalis on June 23, 2020 ©Sonja Hakala

I’ve been tempted to plop my gardening seat close to their brambles just to spend time watching them. But their clocks are not my clocks and their time is not my time.

One day, their flowers are mere bumps, little knobs at the ends of twiggy branches.

Three days later, the buds are lush white flowers pluming up in lacy festoons along the shore, alive with feverish bees and flitting swallowtail butterflies.

A few days later—the blink of an eye in river time—their white petals have given way to infant berries pushing toward the sun.

I lean down to look closer wondering what I have seen.

And what I have missed.


Sonja Hakala lives on a river in Vermont and is the author of the Carding, Vermont novels and the upcoming Red City mystery, The Deadly Noose.

The Carding, Vermont novels, in order of appearance:

The Road Unsalted

Thieves of Fire

The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life

Light in Water, Dancing

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